In my post, How Will Funeral Service Adapt to Internet Shoppers?, I mentioned that funeral homes are moving away from being product-based to being service-based.

Lenette of Urn Garden commented:

Maybe I’m misinformed, but I thought the funeral profession WAS a service based industry.

Yes, Lenette, funeral service has historically been a product-based industry.  You see, before funeral homes, families handled their own services.  They even made their own caskets and coffins.

But furniture makers saw an opening and began selling more elaborate caskets to their clients.  Buoyed by the success of this new line of furniture, they began offering other services (embalming, use of a parlor) and eventually spurred the creation of “homes for funerals” that were outside of the regular family home that had been the standard site for a viewing.

Fast forward to a more modern funeral service (let’s say the 60’s through today).  Most funeral homes mark up their products 200 or 300 percent.  Profit margins of 6 or 14% (roughly common in today’s industry) could never be achieved without product sales.

So we have to realize that we’re talking about an industry that was started by product makers. 

But my question in the post was specifically designed to get funeral directors talking about where we go from here.  Why?  Because people like Lenette are popping up to fill a need.  Clearly, today’s consumer wants more and tomorrow’s consumer (Gen-X and Gen-Y shoppers) already know where to find more and how to pay less for it.

And while it might be easy for some funeral professionals to blame people like Lenette (“If she didn’t sell those urns online, I’d be able to compete!”) it’s entirely inappropriate.  Online funeral product sellers are merely taking advantage of a useful medium that is changing the rules.

We should be figuring out how the rule changes affect us and how we can adapt so that we’re still in the game.

P.S. – Lenette writes a great blog (which I’ve got programmed into my feed-reader) and has already responded there.  I’ll be posting a followup to her blog post here in the next few days.